Night sky in September 2012

Sun: The longer days are at last with us, as the Sun moves back into the southern sky. Equinox falls on the 23rd. Daylight savings starts on the last Sunday of the month, at 2am, when the clocks go forward.

Moon: There are two full moons this month, on the 1st and 30th. Last quarter is on the 9th with new moon falling on the 16th. First quarter follows on the 23rd. The Moon makes close approaches to Jupiter and Aldebaran (8th) and to Saturn and Spica (18th).

Planets: Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen. It reaches Superior Conjunction on September 11th.

Venus remains a brilliant object in the pre-dawn sky, rising around 4.30am. On the 13th, the crescent Moon is within three degrees of the planet.

Mars may be found in the northwestern sky in the early evening. This month, it appears to move away from Saturn and closer to Antares, the bright red star of Scorpius.

Jupiter rises around 1am and is easily distinguished as a brilliant, yellowish star in the east. The planet is in the constellation of Taurus and lies between the bright star Aldebaran, and the Pleiades.

Saturn sets around 9pm and is steadily moving nearer to the Sun. It continues to appear close to Spica, which is a few degrees below it.

Stars and constellations: Overhead, the Milky Way and the two star-laden constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius dominate the heavens.

In the west, Spica and the constellation of Leo are setting.

Low in the southwest is the Southern Cross and above it are the two Pointers.

The southeastern quadrant contains Achernar and the Clouds of Magellan.

In the northern sky, we can make out the northern hemisphere's summer triangle - the three stars of Altair, Vega and Deneb.

Prepared for The Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.

Taranaki Daily News